Beckie Scott showed a level of dominance that has arguably never been seen before from a Canadian, or for that matter from a North American woman. This morning was cold and crisp, with sunny skies and the temperature hovering around —17C. Beckie Scott charged to the front almost immediately and had the field strung out by about the 3km mark. The only women who put up a serious threat were Julija Tchepalova and Olga Rotcheva, both of Russia. It was clear early on that Beckie was the strongest of the group as she never relinquished her lead. Rotcheva fell off the pace by about the halfway point, with Tchepalova at times more or less right on Scott’s heels, and at other times about 5 seconds back. Tchepalova appeared to have slightly faster and possibly slicker skis. She tended to let the gap open a bit on the uphill sections, and close it back a bit on the downhills. To the the delight of the crowd Beckie held on to her lead and with it, another World Cup victory. Claudia Kuenzel and Viola Bauer did a nice job of representing Germany, leading the chase pack in to take 3rd and 4th ahead of Norwegain Stoermer Steira. Not to be forgotten was the outstanding performance of Sara Renner, who finished 6th. This is (to the best of my knowledge) her best ever World Cup performance in a distance race. Some other North Americans impressed as well, scoring World Cup Points: Milaine Theriault (21), Amanda Ammar (27), Wendy Wagner (29). Also very close was Chandra Crawford in 31st)
The men’s race went to none other than the guy who seems to be winning most of the distance races these days, Tobias Angerer. This time he did it by outsprinting Norwegian classic distance king, Frode Estil. While Estil pushed the pace very hard on the last climbs he was unable to shake Angerer. The front of the group was very tightly bunched, with the top 23 positions being separated only by a minute. Kris Freeman continued to ski strongly for the Americans, finishing 20th. Ivan Babikov and George Grey once again turned in some truly remarkable performances. Babikov wound up 18th with George 26th.While we cannot officially say that Babikov represents Canada (his name appears on results lists as being with Russia) it is exciting to think that sometime soon we will be able to. Grey, on the other hand, certainly does race with the letters CAN appearing after his name on the results pages. Lately, he has been nothing short of spectacular from a Canadian perspective. It has been a very long time since any Canadian has put together back to back top 30 (and in fact top 20 in the last skate race) World Cup results. While those who follow Grey know that he has been knocking on the door for quite some time, it was nice to see that recently he has been in the middle of the party.
Tomorrow brings us the sprint relays, possibly the most exciting event from a spectator’s point of view and some more very realistic medal possibilities. Specifically, many are hoping for something special from Beckie Scott and Sara Renner.
Karl Saidla races for XC Ottawa – www.xcottawa.ca